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Krauss, a theoretical physicist and head of The Origins Project at Arizona State University, is not the first evolutionist to defy the age-old wisdom that something does not come from nothing. World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking popularized the idea in a recent book he co-authored entitled The Grand Design.
Krauss and Hawking use gravitational theory and quantum mechanics to argue that, in fact, such spontaneous creation is all but inevitable. Their narratives appeal to graduate-level physics which most people do not understand, but the basic idea of a strictly naturalistic creation story goes back centuries.
The intellectual necessity of naturalism
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the rise of modern science and the Enlightenment, the urge for strict naturalism was promoted by various Christian traditions. Both in England and on the continent, Christians were refining a range of theological views that required science to describe the world’s origins strictly in terms of natural law. The dozen or so views that emerged fell into two broad categories. One category dealt with the divine attributes while the other dealt with epistemology and man’s knowledge. For short, we may refer to them as the “greater god mandate” and the “intellectual necessity” for naturalism.
In each category a foundational theological view supported various specific arguments for naturalism. One argument from the intellectual necessity view, which became more clear in the eighteenth century, was that special divine action (or primary causation) interfered with scientific progress, or even made science impossible.
As Baden Powell had insisted, all of science depends on the principles of uniformitarianism. Darwin’s confidant J. D. Hooker was more direct. Though he found special creation and evolution at an empirical standoff, neither theory with a clear advantage, he opted for the latter for its “great organizing potential.” It was not that evolutionary theories were “the truest,” he wrote to William H. Harvey in 1859, “but because they do give you room to reason and reflect at present, and hopes for the future, whereas the old stick-in-the-mud doctrines … are all used up. They are so many stops to further inquiry; if they are admitted as truths, why there is an end of the whole matter, and it is no use hoping ever to get any rational explanation of origin or dispersion of species—so I hate them.”
A law-like origins of the world, on the other hand, supported the accrual of knowledge. Darwin enunciated this view when he explained that acceptance of his theory of evolution was less important than the rejection of special divine action:
Whether the naturalist believes in the views given by Lamarck, by Geoffroy St. Hilaire, by the author of the ‘Vestiges,’ by Mr. Wallace or by myself, signifies extremely little in comparison with the admission that species have descended from other species, and have not been created immutable: for he who admits this as a great truth has a wide field open to him for further inquiry.
The rejection of special divine action was equated with scientific progress. Here Darwin extrapolated his metaphysical argument to arrive at the ultimate proof against creation. His main point, that no creator ever would have intended for this world, was now protected against counter arguments because such counter arguments would be unscientific.
Darwin repeatedly used metaphysical arguments against creation to prop up evolution, but now he declared that counter arguments would be out-of-bounds since they were unscientific. Darwin correctly observed that creation and its supporting arguments hinge on one’s concept of God, but he conveniently forgot that arguments against creation equally hinge on one’s concept of God. For Darwin, it was fair game to argue against creation but not for it. Thus, evolution was the correct scientific conclusion. In fact, what good science required was a naturalistic explanation, regardless of what particular explanation was used.
Since Darwin this theological argument has gained strength. For Niles Eldredge, the key responsibility of science—to predict—becomes impossible when a capricious Creator is entertained:
But the Creator obviously could have fashioned each species in any way imaginable. There is no basis for us to make predictions about what we should find when we study animals and plants if we accept the basic creationist position. … the creator could have fashioned each organ system or physiological process (such as digestion) in whatever fashion the Creator pleased.
In his text Paul Moody explains that without strict naturalism one does not have an explanation at all:
it amounts to saying, ‘Things are this way because they are this way.’ Furthermore, it removes the subject from scientific inquiry. One can do no more than speculate as to why the Creator chose to follow one pattern in creating diverse animals rather than to use differing patterns.
Likewise Tim Berra warns that we must not be led astray by the apparent design in biological systems, for it “is not the sudden brainstorm of a creator, but an expression of the operation of impersonal natural laws, of water seeking its level. An appeal to a supernatural explanation is unscientific and unnecessary—and certain to stifle intellectual curiosity and leave important questions unasked and unanswered. ” In fact, “Creationism has no explanatory powers, no application for future investigation, no way to advance knowledge, no way to lead to new discoveries. As far as science is concerned, creationism is a sterile concept.”
Lawrence Krauss and the intellectual necessity
And so it is not surprising to hear Lawrence Krauss, at the 3:14 mark in the above lecture, rehearse the same, centuries-old, intellectual necessity theology in support of his conviction that something, in fact the entire universe, just happened to spontaneously arise from nothing:
I am going to a talk about our modern picture of cosmology and how it has changed our view of the universe—the past and the future, and in some sense how that picture is clearly remarkable. And far more remarkable than the fairly tales that are made up in most religious situations.
But the key point is mystery. That is one of the things that makes science so special I think. It is that scientists love mysteries. They love not knowing. That’s a key part of science. The excitement of learning about the universe. And that again is so different than the sterile aspect of religion where the excitement is apparently knowing everything, although clearly knowing nothing.
There you have it. Without naturalism there is not only no excitement, there is no knowledge. We are left “apparently knowing everything” but “clearly knowing nothing.” Given this truth, then of course, we must have evolution.
Everything came from nothing and if you don’t agree, then you know nothing. Religion drives science, and it matters.